12 (Easy) Eco-Friendly Swaps for Families
A lifetime ago, BC (Before Child), I was a Geography teacher with a huge passion for looking at the positive and negative ways that humans impact their environment. These days, my lessons on sustainability and being environmentally conscious are going straight over the head of my one and only (2 year old) student but it hasn’t dimmed my love for a good eco-friendly find.
There are loads of ways we can create some eco-friendly changes in our households just by doing some simple product swaps. Below I’ve listed some of my favourite (and easy!) swaps that you can make if you are looking to positively impact your environment.
I am a HUGE fan of cloth nappies! They're so easy to use, they’re customisable, there is something to suit every baby and they are SO DARN CUTE. They will contain blow outs better than any disposable and they give you total control of what you put next to your baby’s skin.
We absolutely LOVE our Monarch Classic nappies during the day. The pocket makes it so easy to get rid of any soil and they are so super trim. For night we only will use Monarch Ultimate nappies with a 5 layer hemp, 5 layer bamboo and a 3 layer bamboo nap insert. We have been trialling some of Monarch’s new Pull Up’s though and I am seriously impressed. As we move into toilet training for our very large 2 year old, these are going to be invaluable!
These make snacks on a day out SO easy and single-use plastic free. I hated buying those yoghurt pouches from the supermarket because a lot of the time the packaging isn't recyclable and they get expensive when you’re buying in bulk! Reusable pouches to the rescue! Just fill them up and away you go. You can pop them in the dishwasher to clean them as well. They are really good for purees and for kids who want to feed themselves but still struggle a little with a bowl and spoon.
Bonus plastic free alternative: mini wet bags as lunch bags! I ended up buying specific mini wet bags as lunch bags for us (Lemon Squeezy mini’s are just made for this right?) because they’re cute, they keep everything together and they’re easy to wash and take care of. Now we all have specific prints so we can just pack a lunch, toss it in the nappy bag and head out.
For snacks like crackers, nuts or lollies, we use a mini-mini which are the perfect size!
Cloth and breast pads
One of those things I had never considered until I started using cloth nappies, but I was essentially still using plastic disposables that would sit in landfill much like a disposable nappy.
Cloth pads are so comfortable you honestly forget they are there. Again, there is no extra work because you throw them into your pre and main wash and the best thing about them? The cute prints! They also tend to be more absorbent than the disposable kind as well which means less messy leaks in the middle of the night.
Cute designs, so absorbent and easy on the nips - reusable breast pads are a saving grace while breastfeeding. They were so soft and comfortable which is exactly what I needed when my body was going through some big changes! I loved my Alcmena Breast Pads, they were such a great size and the non-slip dots on the back really kept them in place even when sleeping.
The best part? Once you’re done breastfeeding, these pads make amazing reusable makeup wipes! You can also soak them in water and pop them in the fridge to use as eye patches for those days when sleep was too little and your eyes feel like they have puffed out to the size of tennis balls.
Reusable water bottles and coffee cups
Another really easy swap is to reduce the number of single use plastic bottles and coffee cups from landfill. The thing I found the most difficult was remembering to take the bottle or cup with me but maybe, like me, you start leaving one in the car/pram so you never forget!. Even better when your reusable water bottle can double as your reusable coffee cup! I love my insulated bottle for both hot and cold drinks. We even use one of these bottles to take water out with us to wet our reusable wipes. Speaking of which...
Before we started with cloth wipes, I think we were spending about $10 a week on disposable wipes. I tried making my own cloth wipes with some flannelette but they were kind of rough and fell apart pretty quickly. In comes Monarch with their bamboo cotton wipes and minky wipes.
Oh. My. Golly. Gamechanger!
Firstly, if you are already using cloth nappies, it's literally no extra work. They just get thrown into the pre and main wash, and then back into the change table basket. You don't even have to dry them!
They don’t even have to go near bottoms! In our house, the minky wipes have become face washers and the bamboo cotton wipes have become dish cloths. They are great to use as paper towels, for runny noses and dirty faces, for that cloth that is permanently hanging around to wipe things up like pencil all over the wall...
I swear changing over to reusable wipes has saved us hundreds of dollars with no exaggeration. If there is one change to make, this is it.
Shampoo and conditioner bars
These are great! Shampoo and conditioner bars were not something I had ever heard about until a friend mentioned them to me when I was complaining about liquid restrictions on flights one weekend (#firstworldproblems). We use Ethique which also comes in packaging that can be composted and are totally plastic free. The bars are made from biodegradable and sustainable ingredients, they’re cruelty free and vegan. They also last for months! The best bit is how many products you can switch out for zero single use plastic free - shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, moisturiser, baby wash, deodorant. It’s mild enough that even babies with sensitive skin can use it but still cleans so well.
Bamboo toothbrush and tablets
This is starting to become much more mainstream which is great! You can now buy bamboo toothbrushes in big name supermarkets and the big brands are starting to get on board with them too. Brands such as Colgate have even branched out into making bamboo toothbrushes for kids as well. Our next step is moving to toothpaste ‘tablets’ instead of tubes of toothpaste!
Stainless steel pegs
I always found it so irritating to be trying to get washing on the clothesline only to run out of pegs because they keep breaking and so you have to replace them. So frustrating!
Switching to marine grade pegs like these Pegz ones stocked at One Little Sprout makes hanging out laundry even easier. These marine grade ones are stainless steel so they won’t rust meaning you can leave them outside on the clothesline all year round and they won’t weaken and break. The octopus hanger is great for hanging up our inserts indoors during rainy weather too! Now we will never have to buy another peg again!
“Grow With Me” (GWM) clothing
The Grow With Me (GWM) clothing trend is something I have only just discovered and I am obsessed. GWM clothing has an extra long cuff on the arm or leg that allows for the item of clothing to be adjusted as your child grows. This puts an end to having to replace wardrobes of clothes every few months as your child grows out of them. As an added bonus, lots of GWM clothing is made by mums at home so you can support them too!
Reusable cutlery sets
We keep a few sets of these in the car for impromptu fish and chip picnics by the beach! Our sets are made from plastic and were kind of an impulse purchase at the checkout from a supermarket chain when we lived in London but they are so handy. I wish I had thought about it a little more and got something a bit more sustainably made though. You can find some very cute stainless steel cutlery sets that come in a painted tin, or bamboo sets that roll up in their own cloth storage pouch. They’re small enough that you can keep one in your hand bag or nappy bag for whenever you need them.
In an age when kids are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to toys that flash, beep, light up, make noise or play music, simple wooden toys can get overlooked or are seen as ‘boring’. But if you are looking to move away from plastic for your kids, this is a simple swap to make. Wooden toys are made of wood (obviously) which means they can be sustainable and are made from renewable sources. Wooden toys tend to fare better and last longer than their plastic counterparts as well. Let’s face it, kids are not the most gentle of creatures sometimes! They can also be recycled once your kids grow out of playing with them unlike plastic toys.
Recycled and recyclable dinner sets
One thing I never thought about was the type of dinner plate I served my child’s food on. I was always too worried about what I was serving and whether my child would eat it or turn up her nose. But when I started thinking about what I would do with all the plastic plates, cutlery, bowls and cups once my children had grown up, I began looking into whether I could have made more of a sustainable choice here. And the answer is yes. Australian companies like bobo&boo do plant-based dinnerware for children that is both sustainable and renewable as it is made from bamboo, but it also biodegradable so when your little ones graduate to ‘proper’ dinnerware, you can rest assured that your baby plates will break down with no microplastics!
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are loads more things you can do to create a house with a more positive impact on the environment! You don’t need to do everything perfectly all the time, but if enough people can do the best they can most of time, that's going to create a better place for our kids to grow up in.